…time on my hands could be time spent with you.
There’s a club that many people become a part of, but no one is ever prepared for. Not the Fight Club, but this one is just as taboo and most don’t talk about it either.
It’s the Dead Parents Club, and I became a member last week. Pardon my bluntness, but as I sat to type I knew there was no way to start with a sugar-coated intro.
Daddy passed away last Monday, 13 days after receiving his first t-cell infusion as part of the CAR-T Cell CD19 clinical trial. He fought like a true Marine, but in the end, he got tired and had no more fight left in him.
Mommy, Brie and I… I have no words. His girls are numb. We are broken-hearted, devastated, lost- I’m not coming close to describing the emptiness we are experiencing. It’s all-consuming. I’ve never bought in to having a soul-mate, but I whole-heartedly believe my parents were soul-mates, the ying to the other’s yang. My mom first met Daddy when she was 13, three years later they were dating, another year later they were married.
Their 48 year marriage remained rock solid through 3 separate cancer diagnoses, Parkinson’s Disease (mom), a heart attack (dad), anaphylactic shock (dad), and raising a daughter who needed 4 heart surgeries by the time she turned 6.
Against all odds, indeed.
In cancer, any illness, life really, nothing is guaranteed. Daddy went into this clinical trial knowing there were risks, knowing that the cytokine release syndrome, a massive inflammatory response caused by binding to the t-cells, would do its best to kill him before he began to get better, a double-edged sword, if you will.
He went into this without an ounce of fear, so enthusiastic to be a part of something so BIG. Though his girls down here on Earth can’t imagine going though life without him, I’m trying to accept that this is the way he wanted to go out- SCIENCE. It’s not the result we all imagined, but he was still a part of this cutting-edge trial, his data and experiences will guide scientists/doctors/researchers into how to better treat patients, and eventually cure cancer.
Daddy is, and always will be a key factor in curing cancer.
I don’t know how to end, so I’m going to leave you with the eulogy Brie and I gave at his service last Wednesday. I can’t take any credit, my gifted sister came up with the words to articulate how amazing he is; I just read them.
Our dad was quiet, until he was not. His initial silence might be seen as reserved upon introduction, but all anyone needed was a common thread. Once you unfurled even an inch of shared interest, our dad was weaving a sweater with it. He was quietly strong and varied in his opinions, and he wore them proudly. Fiercely loyal to Israel, steadfastly a man of science. Most of his opinions spoke to his numerical mind, his nature of knowing that there was an answer to everything. And other things, like his irrational hatred of Peter Jennings or his sweetly optimistic feeling that THIS was going to be the Flyers year… well, it proved that perhaps, our nerdy father wasn’t as concretely black and white as it seemed. Or, not at all. Our father was loyal and loving, sensitive and sweet. He felt our happiness and heartbreak as closely as he felt his own. Our parent’s long marriage, with its “against all odds” start, was a streak of bright color. His love for us, and for PJ, perhaps even brighter. In defiance of his pragmatic upbringing, there was a part of his scientific heart that was all poet.
He settled on engineering because it spoke to his technical nature and, likely, because jobs and paychecks are necessary. But our father, before engineer, was a student, and he hungered to know new things. He became an engineer because “professional student” wasn’t an available job choice. When Marla became a nurse, he would read her anatomy textbooks with the same enthusiasm he would read science fiction. When my son was diagnosed with Autism, he would send me articles of autism research, particularly if the study was based in Israel. Coffee is the love language of his wife and daughters, trains the love language of his grandson, but INFORMATION was the love language of our father. He shared it because he wanted everyone to know better, be better, do better. The cancer study he was in was his chance to be a part of something groundbreaking, something that could provide knowledge that would change the face of science. He was so excited about it, and believed very strongly in the emerging science. He made sure he knew everything he could, absorbed it all, and believed the potential reward was worth the risk. It might seem like he went down with the ship, but in reality, he is helping to steer.
Today there is no color, no light, no knowledge for us. our heartbreak feels like the last lesson we will ever learn. Today, our mom and his girls don’t know how we will keep going on without him. But tomorrow… tomorrow. Do us a favor. If something fleetingly catches your interest, don’t just Google it or, even worse, forget it all together. Pick up a damned book. Learn something. Take our dad’s best and most important lesson with you forever- that knowledge and love are the same thing.